Thinking of getting a bird for a pet?
Some points to ponder before acquiring a pet bird
I love birds with my whole heart! When I'm in the presence of a bird it is like I forget all time and I'm just caught up in wonder and bliss. Their beauty and little personalities and vocalizations just catch me up in another time zone! It is because I love them so intensely that I am writing this post.
Throughout my years on this earth, I've encountered people who have the misunderstanding that pet birds are easy to care for. After all, you just stick them in a cage in the corner of a room and they'll sing happy songs to you all the live long day, right?
That is anything but the truth. It has been my experience that to be a good bird caregiver, you have to do it right. If not, you will have an unhappy, stressed out, or sick bird who won't live very long, and if/when they start screaming because they're not getting enough stimulation or getting their physical needs met then you will not be happy either. It breaks my heart when I hear how some birds live and what they have to put up with around them while they sit on a perch bored out of their gourd, in a corner cage.
Throughout all my years of pet sitting, I have acquired the opinion that one of the most time-consuming (interior) pets to care for are birds. People naturally gravitate towards their beauty and storybook thoughts of birds flitting around Cinderella in the Disney animated film.
Whether you are thinking of getting a bird as a pet for yourself or for one of your children (a.k.a. still you), you need to spend some time figuring out if this is the right pet, at the right time, for the right reasons.
It doesn't matter if it is a tiny canary or a huge macaw, birds require good, attentive, daily care. One of my special interests is helping people become aware of how much work goes into bird care BEFORE they get one.
Birds are very social, smart, like to interact with humans, and need a lot of attention.
Here are some things to consider:
Birds have special dietary requirements that go beyond birdseed. Do you know what those requirements are for the particular type of bird you want? Take some time to learn.
Estimate all the costs involved in acquiring a bird: cost of the bird, as big of a cage as possible, various foods, toys, bowls, perches, pet-sitting costs, vet care, cleaning supplies, etc...
Do you know where the closest Avian vet is to your house and what type of checkups your bird will need?
What living environment will the bird be living in? What is your home like? Is it a loud home with screaming and lively children or dogs barking, or is it a quiet home? Where will the birdcage (and toys, etc...) be kept? Do you have an area to put the cage that doesn't have drafts or beating sun on it most of the day? If you live in colder climates, do you have a plan on how you will keep the bird warm if you lose power for several hours or more in the winter?
Birds have phenomenal hearing and are sensitive to sounds. What are the sounds in your house like? Too loud? Too quiet? Will the bird have to listen to a loud TV or music a good amount of the day? Will the bird have to listen to arguing and screaming and cursing a lot? Will it be a pleasant, peaceful, joyful situation for the bird?
Do you know what kinds of vocalizations the type of bird you want makes? Some birds, like canaries, make sweet sounds, but the bigger birds can be very very loud and squawk a lot, talk a lot in a tone and volume that may not be pleasing to your ears.
Birdcages need daily cleaning, and usually twice a day depending on the bird and the size of the cage. Ex: for my sweet cockatiel, I'd clean her cage thoroughly once a day, but would have to do some additional cleaning later in the day. The larger parrots I pet sat for would require thorough cage cleaning twice a day because they were so messy. Add to that the time spent in special food prep and you have to fit all of this into your daily schedule. Cleaning entails not only the interior of the cage but the floors surrounding the cages as well - sweeping, vacuuming, changing out newspaper on the floor around the cages to cage bird droppings. An unkept cage can smell and cause sickness.
Birds need to have things to do - toys to play with - things to occupy their minds - people to interact with (especially if they are the only bird in the house). Do you have the time and money for this? Birds can be as smart as toddlers or even a little older. They need activity and interaction or you will end up with a bird that gets angry, screeches constantly for attention, or gets stressed, anxious, depressed or feather picks or engages in other negative behaviors.
Do you have the time to spend with a bird? Birds can be trained to do many things - just check out YouTube for some of the fun things birds can do! But it takes time. They are truly like little children that never grow up.
Consider bird-proofing your house if you plan on having the bird trained to be outside of its cage, especially if you can't have a dedicated "bird room". Birds are very curious and can chew on things and will get themselves into trouble if not supervised or in a danger-free area specifically created for them.
Most birds need their cages covered at night and need about 12 hours of sleep time. Does your schedule allow for that? They like routine. Will you be able to get the cage cover off and back on during the same time frames each day or is your daily work schedule so sporadic that you won't have time for adequate bird care?
Do you have a pet sitter in your area that pet sits for birds? Some pet sitters don't sit for birds. (See my other post entitled "The Bird Sitter Dilemma".)
Will you be clipping the bird's wings so it can't fly? I have never been a fan of wing clipping. Some people are fine with wing clipping, but not me. I'd rather provide the extra supervision and a safe environment rather than clip a bird's wings. The only time I ever clipped my cockatiel's wings was when we were moving cross country. I felt it was a necessity so I wouldn't lose her along the 3,000-mile trip if something went wrong. Once we arrived at our new home out west, I let her wings grow back. Seeing how depressed she was with the clipped wings made me vow to never do it again. That said, I do understand why some people think it is a necessity - depending on who else lives in their home (small children who open doors and windows to allow birds to escape).
I am not sharing all of this to scare anyone away from having pet birds. I just want you to be knowledgeable going into it so you and your future birds have a lovely life together. There are too many birds that end up lost, neglected, or end up in bird sanctuaries because their owners couldn't handle their needs. There are too many people I've run into who think they can just stick a bird in a little cage in the corner more as a decoration than a beloved member of the family, and ignore them a good amount of the time.
Another thing to know is that some birds can outlive their owners - living over 80 years or more. So if you get a bird, please plan on being in this relationship for the long run. Have a plan in your will for what you want to happen with the bird after you die. Can another family member adopt the bird? Plans help birds stay out of bird sanctuaries and being passed on to various people that really don't want them. All these changes stress birds out so please think long-range when you get a bird that lives a very long time.
To have a healthy, happy bird, you must be willing to learn a lot, do a lot, adjust your schedule sometimes, and be willing to shower your feathered friends with time, love, and attention. Birds can be very affectionate and they get attached to people, so please never treat them like a decoration, an object, but instead treat them like the beautiful creature God made that can grace your life and add much joy to your days!
My Sweet Puffy the Cockatiel in the prime of her life!